Background: Osteoarthritis is a mechanical abnormality characterized by chronic joint pain associated with degeneration of the articular cartilage, synovitis, and local inflammation, leading to loss of function and pain. A connection exists between the peripheral nervous system and inflammatory joint degeneration. The process by which inflammation is influenced by the nervous system is known as neuroinflammation. One of the neuropeptides involved in peripheral neuroinflammation is nociceptin, a peptide related to the opioid class of substances. Nociceptin has both pro- and anti-inflammatory effects. Some studies show that nociceptin can be measured in synovial fluid, while other studies have not been able to detect it. The presence of nociceptin in synovial fluid could imply a molecular role for the neuropeptide in the joint, both physiologically as well as pathophysiologically. The goal of this pilot study was to determine whether nociceptin was present in the synovial fluid of osteoarthritic knees. Methods: Patients undergoing primary total knee arthroplasty were enrolled after Institutional Review Board approval was obtained. Synovial fluid was aspirated from patients' operative knee joints and blood samples were obtained. A commercially available enzyme Immunoassay kit was used to test for nociceptin. A linear mixed-effects model was developed to account for the repeated measurements and baseline covariates. Least squares (adjusted) means were derived from the model to compare the sample types and to compare subgroups. Results: Twenty patients were included in this study. Nociceptin was detected in the synovial fluid and plasma of all patients. The mean concentration (± standard deviation) of nociceptin in synovial fluid was 28.7 ± 18.2 pg/ml. The mean concentration of nociceptin in plasma was 45.2 ± 24.3 pg/ml pre-procedure, and 40.1 ± 20.6 pg/ml post-tourniquet deflation. The nociceptin concentration in synovial fluid was significantly lower than the nociceptin concentration in plasma, both pre-procedure and post-tourniquet deflation (p = 0.002 and p = 0.016 respectively). The nociceptin concentration in both plasma and synovial fluid was significantly lower in females versus males (p = 0.012). Conclusion: We demonstrated that nociceptin is present in synovial fluid and plasma of patients undergoing total knee arthroplasty. This implies a potential role for nociceptin in modulating inflammation in osteoarthritis. Trial registration: ClinicalTrials.gov, NCT02528916.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number266
JournalJournal of Orthopaedic Surgery and Research
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jul 16 2020

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Surgery
  • Orthopedics and Sports Medicine


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